Top 10 Student Loan Mistakes to Avoid

If you’re thinking about getting into patent law, then you probably already realize gaining the right degree or degrees is a priority. Patent agents have a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree. Patent attorneys have a Bachelor’s degree in science or engineering plus a law degree. Many patent agents and patent attorneys have much higher than a Bachelor’s degree. Often, these professionals will have a Master’s or even PhD to add to the mix.

So if you’re planning on becoming a patent agent or patent attorney, you may need to consider more education, which often requires student loans.

Finding the money to attend college is often stressful. It’s not a cheap venture and few of us have the cash on hand to pay for ridiculously priced textbooks and four years of tuition or even worse, law school.

Since tuition is rising every year, most college-bound individuals turn to student loans or other financial aid to finance their education. The problem is most people are unaware of what student loan debt truly entails and the issues that can come up in the future.

Most of us make the same tragic mistakes when it comes to our financial aid. We’re going to discuss how to avoid these mistakes so you can take bigger and brighter steps towards your future.

Mistake #1: Disregarding Community Colleges

When college-bound, we all dream of spending a few years at an expensive, well-known university. Depending on your degree and major, community college for the first two years of your education may be your best choice. There are many reputable community colleges that charge you a decent price for an equal education.

If you’ve already earned your 4-year degree and are considering a Master’s, PhD, or a law degree, then a community college is not going to have anything to offer you. In that case, depending on where you live, you may be able to enroll in an in-state college or university and save yourself a lot of money.

Coming hand in hand with deciding on a college, deciding your major is also of utmost importance. Your degree needs to advance your career not lead you further into debt. Is there actually a return investment on the degree you’re going for?

You might not need that Master’s or PhD to get the job you want, but a law degree will pay-off in the future. So make sure you’re going for something you really need.

Mistake #2: Borrowing Private Loans Instead of Federal Student Aid

Private loans should always be the last resort. You should start with applying for scholarships and grants, first and foremost. It goes without saying but the more money you can get for your education that you don’t have to pay back, the less debt you have to deal with in the future.

After applying for as many scholarships that you can, your next step will be checking out federal student aid. FAFSA is your best bet at cheaper loans with simpler repayment terms. Federal loans also have a three year deferment after your graduation.

A deferment allows you to stop payment for a short period of time or decrease the amount of your monthly repayments. Deferment can come in handy but shouldn’t be the first choice.

Federal loans also have death and disability discharges in case serious circumstances stop you from repayment. If you pass away, your loans don’t fall on anyone else and if you are unable to work, you may not be required to pay off your debt. Private loans don’t have either of these options available.

If you are unable to cover the entire cost of your tuition through scholarships and federal loans, then you should shop around for the best private loans.

Mistake #3: Not Shopping Around for the Best Rates

If you do go the route of private loans, it’s imperative that you don’t pick the first loan you come across. Many private lenders advertise low-interest rates but the truth of the matter is that very few students qualify for these low rates. Private lenders can set their own rates and fees and they can be subject to change.

It’s also extremely important to know the difference between fixed interest rates and variable rates. Fixed interest rates will never increase or change whereas variable interest rates can and usually do change over the years.

Mistake #4: Don’t Choose the Wrong Repayment Plan

Your repayment plan should be chosen carefully. Important factors to consider are how much you can afford to pay per month and how fast you want to pay off your debt. If you don’t choose a repayment plan, you can be put on a 10-year plan in which interest accumulates daily.

Mistake #5: Don’t Borrow More than You Need

Under no circumstances should you apply for the biggest loans just because you may qualify for them. You must never forget that the money you are receiving is not free money. Every penny must be paid back and at a higher interest rate. Therefore, minimize your loans.

Don’t spend the money you receive on living expenses or shopping. This money needs to go towards your tuition and your textbooks. Nothing extra, nothing more!

Mistake #6: Don’t Cosign Your Loan

Cosigning a loan seems enticing at first but you should never drag another person into your debt unless you are positive you can repay the loan. A cosigner is considered a co-borrower. This means if you miss a payment or simply ignore your responsibilities, your bad decisions fall onto your cosigner. They are just as much obligated to repay that loan as you are. This can ruin not just your credit score but theirs as well.

Mistake #7: Forgetting to Keep Your Contact Info Up-to-Date

If you move, keep your loan lender up-to-date. Even if you aren’t receiving information on your loans because you didn’t contact them on your move, your interest is still accruing. Going into default means your wages can be garnished, you won’t receive your income tax refunds, and even your Social Security benefit payments can be taken from you.

Mistake #8: Don’t Refinance Federal Loans

It’s best to forget refinancing your loans, federal included. Refinancing loans means you a creating a new loan. Federal loans become private loans. As we’ve seen before, private loans don’t have the protections that federal loans do.

Mistake #9: Late Payments or Missed Payments

Late or missed payments will affect your credit score. A horrible credit score leads to difficulties down the road if you want to finance a home or a new car. If you are having difficulty keeping up with repayments, contact your loan lender as soon as you are able. They may offer to reduce that monthly payment.

Mistake #10: Postponing Payments

Postponing a repayment should be a last resort. Most postponing of repayments will deal with deferment or forbearance. Both of these options only hurt you in the long run. Even under a postponed payment, your interest is still accumulating. This means when you begin to pay it again, your interest may have doubled during the down period.

There Is Hope

There are other ways to get ahead with your student loan debt. If you can, start payments while you’re still in school. Pay more than your monthly repayment plan if possible and set up an automatic payment plan so you never miss a month.

The worse outcome of not taking your loans seriously is drowning in debt in your future. Nobody wants to be paying off student loans well into their 60’s, unable to buy a home or unable to send their own children off to college. It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of education and debt without understanding what the consequences are.

Do your research when you’re applying for loans. Your future can be bright if you take the right steps!

 

How to Apply to Law School as an Engineer or Scientist

Law schools welcome those with engineering and science majors. A scientific or technical background is helpful for lawyers specializing in patent law. If you’re planning on applying for law school after gaining your science or engineering degree, make sure you enroll in courses that train students to think analytically and require lots of writing.

Choosing Classes

Use elective opportunities to gain strong writing and reading skills. Minimize classes that grade on a pass/fail basis. Save law classes for law school, instead, acquire a broad education during the undergraduate years.

Studying abroad and learning a foreign language are wonderful pursuits since the law increasingly deals with global concerns. Being able to communicate in a foreign language can be very valuable.

Consider an honors thesis in the field of engineering or science if eligible. You will graduate with Latin honors and have the opportunity to work with a faculty member to conduct research and create an important piece of writing.

The Admission Process

The Law School Admissions Council coordinates and facilitates the law school admission process. The corporation oversees the Law School Data Assembly and the Law School Admissions Test.

The LSAT is given four times each year and is a requirement for admission into ABA-approved law schools. Law school admissions officers place high importance on LSAT scores. There are five 35-minute sections on the test.

A reading comprehension, analytical thinking, two logical reasoning, and an ‘experimental’ section make up the test. A writing sample is also part of the test. Make sure you carefully prepare for the exam and plan to take it only once.

Give it your best attempt and take lots of practice tests. There is no better resource than previous exams to prepare for the LSAT. Practice under realistic, timed conditions.

If you plan to apply to law school in your senior year, the summer after your junior year is the best time to take the test for a score that will be used.

You will receive your score before summer’s end. Early in the fall, a realistic list of schools to apply to can be created. A second option is to take the test in the fall of your senior year. Results will still be available so that an application can be filed before the deadline. The last opportunity to take the LSAT, if you plan to apply as a senior, is December. If you plan to pursue other interests or work between college and law school, the test can be put off for a bit.

LSDAS prepares academic records for law schools to which you apply. Nearly all schools require registration with LSDAS and there is a separate fee over and above the LSAT fee to register. The law schools contact LSDAS for the report. You indicate how many reports you want to pay for that will be sent.

It is not uncommon to take some time between law school and college to pursue travel opportunities, community service, or a fellowship. A minimum of half of the first-year classes are occupied by people who have not been in college for a year or more. Reasons to wait include:

  • Time to gain maturity, self-confidence, and experience.
  • Become more confident about becoming a lawyer and law school.
  • Desire to have senior grades included in the calculation of GPA.
  • Full-time experience may impress legal employers.
  • Earn money to pay for law school.

Others go directly to law school because they are positive they want to become lawyers. Some believe they will lose academic momentum if they wait while others wish to postpone repaying education loans.

Applying

Seniors typically apply to multiple law schools. Choose a couple of “safe” schools where the chances of admission are 75 percent or better, two or three that appear reasonable, and a couple where the odds of acceptance are less than 30 percent.

When you complete the application, proofread everything carefully. The LSACD allows applications to be completed on personal computers and printed or sent electronically. Make sure to follow all instructions and leave no blanks. Put “not applicable” in any space that does not pertain to you.

Be sure to understand all aspects of the application before signing. Tailor any answers to questions seeking a written statement to the questions since the same response may not suffice for every school.

Disclose any convictions, arrests, discipline problems, or academic problems that the application seeks. These incidents do not automatically bar admission to law school. Schools look for responsibility taken and response to negative consequences.

Undisclosed information may be caught somewhere else in the process of applying that triggers a misconduct inquiry. Talk to a pre-law advisor about any questions you have about the application.

Include a resume that outlines academic accomplishments, work experience, other competencies, and activities. Do not answer questions on the application by asking to refer to the resume.

Apply early. It is an advantage to have an application read as soon as possible. There are law schools that offer early decisions and notifications. Complete applications by Thanksgiving so that your application is considered while seats in the class are available.

The only section that you control entirely is the personal statement. It is your opportunity to distinguish your application from others the committee reviews. Write what you would tell the committee in a ten-minute interview.

Letters of recommendation make a positive difference if LSAT and CPA scores are average among the group applying to a law school. Ask faculty members who know you well for letters of recommendation.

Things contained in letters of recommendation that impress committees include intellectual capacity details, writing skills, motivation, and overall academic experience. Enhance your chances of getting detailed letters by participating in class and using office hours to address material not fully understood.

Legal delivery is becoming data and tech-driven while new skill sets are required. An engineering or science background is necessary for new legal industry positions. There is an acute need for engineer and science-trained professionals that offer enormous opportunities.

Many legal startups are founded by millennial lawyers with science and engineering backgrounds. Students with such backgrounds have an opportunity to be part of a huge industry transformation and gain a share of the market.  There are many other options as well including becoming a patent agent or patent attorney and helping inventors patent their inventions.

How Old Is Too Old for Law School?

The average first-year law student is almost 26-years-old. Therefore, people in their 30’s and 40’s may think they are too old for starting a second career and going to law school, but it can still be a great choice for many. Here are some facts non-traditional students should know about law school admission.

Advantages of Attending Law School Later in Life

Law schools look closely at LSAT scores and GPA’s in student applications. However, relevant experience carries a certain amount of weight with admission committees. Older students bring transferable skills to both the law school and the profession.

Those who work in the justice system as secretaries, paralegals, and police officers have direct knowledge of the law. Life experience is also valuable. In addition, older students may have experience with more than one area of law.

Another advantage of attending law school later in life is that older students have lived through successes and failures that can be relevant in law school. Experienced students bring knowledge that benefits all students to the classroom. Many law schools have part-time, evening programs, and online courses that accommodate older students.

The outside-of-school-contacts older law students have typically allow them to find jobs quickly. Their personal lives are often more stable than younger students which allows for more study time. Older students had the opportunity to explore other fields of employment and have an idea of what they plan to do on a more realistic and detailed level than younger students.

Many young law students have admitted they attended law school because they had no other plans after completing their undergraduate education. Older law students are usually embarking on a second or perhaps third career. Law school is a pursuit of something they love rather than a means of making lots of money. Their expectations of the requirements and the profession are reasonable.

Disadvantages of Attending Law School Later in Life

Learning issues may cause older students to struggle. When there is a long gap between studying, learning is more difficult. Older students may find spending long evenings studying to be harder than when they were younger.

Those with children may be distracted when studying. Some find learning new technology skills to be daunting. Obligations at home may prevent older students from participating in study groups. They may also feel they do not fit in with more traditional, younger students and miss out on collaboration and learning opportunities.

Law school is expensive. Law school students sometimes graduate with more than $150,000 in student loans. Older students may decide the change in career is not worth the investment. Taking out loans for living expenses and tuition may cause an inability to recoup the investment.

Older students have a shorter work career and consequently, less time to pay back loans and enjoy large salaries. They may have trouble finding a job with an employer where age bias exists. The pay is not as high in the public sector, where many older students prefer to work.

Other Considerations

These scenarios are not true for all older students. Some can continue an existing career to avoid excessive student loans. Financial aid and scholarships may be available to older students who bring diversity to a law program that will mitigate the financial sacrifice.

Law school is both a substantial financial commitment and a significant time commitment. There are certain drawbacks to attending law school later in life.

Many employers prefer hiring younger, less experienced graduates who will work for less money. Other reasons for hiring younger employees include commitment, trainability, and career longevity.

Large firms that have more than 250 attorneys offer salaries that are the most lucrative. Statistics, gathered by the National Association for Law Placement, show 53 percent of graduating law students who are 36 or older go solo into private practice or join firms having fewer than ten attorneys. 17 percent join large law firms.

Older employees often have commitments such as aging parents or children that prevent working the 50 to 80 hours that are required. Employers sometimes fear older law student graduates are set in their ways and are not mold-able or trainable. Accepting assignments from younger supervisors may be awkward for some.

As the economy continues its stagnant condition, more people in their 40’s and beyond are going to law school. All legal sectors have recruited older law school graduates.

There are law firms that value previous work experience, especially in the area of patent law. In this field you are required to have a degree in science or engineering and any work experience in those fields is highly valued. The fact that you can become a patent agent without a law degree is a great way to take advantage of this field without spending the time and money in law school.

In addition, even outside the field of patent law, an employer is more likely to hire someone with 15 years of experience in the field of engineering over a recent law school graduate having no expertise if all other factors are equal.

Life experience may carry an edge in the process of admission. Research shows older workers are considered more committed, honest, stable, reliable, and mature by employers. Older graduates are more grounded and focused.

The maturity can be advantageous both in the admission process to law school and the job-seeking process after graduation. Older workers are less likely to challenge established dress codes by wearing inappropriate attire to work. They will not mind rising early to commute to work.

Case Study

The best reference for someone wanting to go to law school later in life is to hear what someone who did it has to say. Jamison Koehler started law school when he was 43. He felt his grades would have been better if he attended law school immediately after college.

However, Mr. Koehler is pretty confident he would have hated it. Life experience, patience, and perspective as an older student meant every reading assignment was not viewed as a task to be completed rather than an experience to savor. As an older student, he took time to sit back and let the content sink in.

Socially, he and his wife found things to be a little strange. They were friends with some of the faculty members. The instructors had joined the Koehler’s for dinner, attended school functions with them, and their children knew each other. However, the age difference was not awkward for him in the classroom.

Koehler hoped to land a job with a criminal defense firm. He had no takers. The gaps in his resume were hard to explain. He decided to forego an apprenticeship and jump into a practice of his own.

Mr. Koehler stated he is satisfied with his decision to attend law school later in life. He may be behind others in his profession concerning his practice, but he feels out in front at his second career.

 

[Case Studies] Top 5 Careers for Scientists to Transition Into

Traditional career paths have changed. A career trajectory will have plateaus and dips as scientists change direction and build skills.

Whether you’re a promising student or you have years of hands-on experience working for leading companies, career changes are often daunting enough; switching to a completely new area can be downright frightening.

Five popular career changes for scientists include:

  • Entrepreneurship, business, or consultancy
  • Patent law
  • Author
  • Teaching and education
  • Product development

If you’re wondering how to ever switch from science to one of the listed career fields, rest assured, there are ways to prepare for a major career change while you’re still working at your current job. The exact skills vary, but some attributes are common for those who wish to switch roles.

For starters, communication is a skill most scientists are stereo-typically said to lack. It is necessary to be able to clearly and concisely communicate scientific ideas in an accessible manner to change careers. The best candidates are comfortable talking to top scientists, policymakers, and kids.

Many of the jobs come with an expectation of getting quickly up to speed on a new area, possibly one for which the person has no prior knowledge. For instance, with patent law, you could keep your job as a scientist while you learn patent law and even prepare for and pass the patent bar exam before you ever quit your current position.

In addition, an adaptable and flexible attitude is needed for many of the positions that require teamwork. There will be shorter deadlines; deadlines that center around hours and days instead of weeks and months. Some career changes (like patent law) require professional qualifications.

We’ve found that the best resource for learning about a transition is from someone who has succeeded in the endeavor. Therefore, we include case studies for each of these career changes here:

1. Company Founder

Dr. Ed Marshall found converting academic research into an industrial process to be more exciting and challenging than his research into metal-based-polymerization catalysts at the Imperial College London.

In 2008, he met a former BP Chemicals senior manager, Dr. John Hamilton. Hamilton’s input was the impetus that drove the start of a new company focused on improving the properties and reducing the cost of manufacturing PLA.

Dr. Marshal says he does not regret his decision to leave academia. His advice to those thinking of starting a company is to seek advice from people who have made the transition. The challenges and rewards make up for the small sacrifices.

2. Patent Law

Toby Thompson spent five years as a pharmaceutical company medicinal chemist before working in the field of patent law. This area is one that requires qualification. Those interested in passing the Patent Bar Exam will need to spend the time learning about patent law and once they pass the exam, they will become registered before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Thompson currently works in private practice for the Abel & Imray firm as part of the Life Sciences team. His job includes drafting and filing applications for patents, prosecution of a patent application until granted, defending clients’ patents and third-party patent opposition, and advising clients of their rights regarding products in light of patents others own.

Mr. Thompson was a little concerned when he left pharmaceutical research that he would miss breakthrough in projects that can happen rapidly and be exciting. His current role involves aiding inventors who work on the boundary of science. He finds learning about the clients’ inventions interesting.

Thompson combines scientific knowledge with his appreciation of the law. He recommends the patent profession to those who want to use a scientific background but have no desire to work in research directly.

3. Film-maker, Writer, Part-time Physics Teacher

Alom Shaha spends most of his professional career sharing a passion for education and science. He writes for some online and print publications and has written a book. Shana was not a researcher but was the author of a paper published in Current Biology that helped in the collection of DNA samples for ‘A Y Chromosome Census of the British Isles.’

Nothing makes Mr. Shaha feel better about himself than teaching. It satisfies his yearning to do something useful in the world. It was not his intention to teach. Mr. Shana suggests those with the smallest suspicion of being a science teacher become certified and explore teaching as a career transition.

4. Program Manager, Life Sciences, at the New York Academy of Science

Amanda Ullman was interested in germs from the time she was a child. Not surprising, her focus of study was viral pathogenesis. She worked with a New York Academy of Science team to help shape the agenda of the scientific conferences for the Academy.

Ullman enjoyed the role that gave her a broader understanding of current biological research than an esoteric perspective in the lab. She found the work intellectually satiating. Ms. Ullman wanted to pursue a career that kept her toes dipped in the waters of science without the frustration and stress of laboratory work. Her advice to exploring jobs outside academia is to leverage a network of acquaintances and friends who have made the leap.

5. Product Development  

Ian Mulvaney is one of the many people who begin working toward a PhD in science and found it not to be the best fit. After being asked to leave the Columbia University department, he picked himself up and got on with other things.

After doing such things as supply teaching, data entry, and bike courier to pay the rent, it dawned on him just how qualified he was for a career related to science. He applied for three jobs listed in New Scientist.

He got a job in Germany working for Springer Verlag in the copy editing department. While there, Mulvaney felt the need to create better research services.

He got the opportunity to pursue that avenue when he became a Nature Network, product manager. Mr. Mulvaney has no plans to return to research but hopes to continue experimenting with the infrastructure and tools of scientific communication. His advice is to be open to opportunities and willing to try approaches that are a little different.

The Path to a Career is Not Always Straight and Narrow

The choice of a scientific vocation sometimes involves unanticipated and challenging decisions with no guidance available. Some scientists hop from the lab into other industries.

The progress of others is the result of climbing the academic research ladder. Scientists can leave research behind as they explore working in technical roles, setting up a business of their own, teaching, or science communication.

 

 

Interested in Intellectual Property Law? Review These Top 8 IP Law Schools

According to a report by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, over 38 percent of the United States’ gross domestic product is made up of intellectual property. To name a few, the field of intellectual property law protects ownership claims to works of art, inventions, and written works.

Any industry involving human creativity presents an opportunity to practice IP law. Intellectual attorney skills are in demand. There is a wide array of international litigation and commercial legal jobs available.

This legal field is becoming central to U.S. policy disputes. Jon Kappes, an Arizona State University lecturer and lawyer, says that IP law, especially patent law and trademark and copyrights, has become a dynamic area of law in recent years.

Congressional members propose revisions to IP laws on a regular basis. More and more Supreme Court cases on the topic arise. The discipline of patent law may be an enticing option for law school hopefuls who know something about science, art, or entertainment.

Law schools vary in the quality of student preparation for practicing IP law. A strong intellectual program includes three things:

  1. Key Courses
  2. Specific Training
  3. Networking Opportunities

Key courses are those that teach how to apply for patents, how to challenge patents, and file lawsuits alleging violations of a patent. Experts suggest IP law courses that discuss how U.S. Law differs from other countries be offered. That knowledge is marketable as attorneys for multinational firms requiring trademarks, copyrights, and patents in multiple countries.

Law schools should provide specific training with experiential learning opportunities such as internships, clerkships, externships, practicums, and clinics in the areas that are of most interest to the students.

A law school’s networking avenues should have solid recruiting relationships with local IP law firms that will provide opportunities for summer work, internships, and externships. There should be an active IP alumni community that attends networking events.

Intellectual Property law schools have been ranked for several years by US News and World ReportThe following schools provide the criteria mentioned above and are typically found on the top IP law schools in US News and World Report rankings:

1. Stanford Law School

Stanford operates the Juelsgaard Intellectual Property and Innovation Clinic that provides students with practical experience. Students represent clients in such areas as biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and information technology.

Microsoft provided a grant for the Transatlantic Technology Forum that works to reduce inconsistent policy between the European Union and the United States in areas such as biotechnology, intellectual property, and antitrust law.

2. George Washington University Law School

The IP program at George Washington University Law School is rooted in a Master of Patent Law program that was launched in 1895. 22 advanced courses and four foundational courses are offered that result in an LL.M in intellectual property law. Students participate in various IP competitions and an IP law association.

3. University of California – Berkeley

Although the University of California – Berkeley does not publicize peer rankings or assign letter grades, its legal curriculum is among the most rigorous in the nation, especially in intellectual law.

Boalt Hall was the first law school to establish such an IP program in 2001.

Students have represented clients before the United States Supreme Court, the California Assembly and Senate, the California Supreme Court, the Federal Elections Commission, and the Federal Trade Commission.

4. Vanderbilt Law School

Vanderbilt Law School is located in Nashville, Tennessee. 39 percent of the students who graduate end up in highly coveted positions. 93 percent of the students pass the bar exam.

Nine programs are currently offered. They include intellectual property, international, and social justice. JD candidates focus on specialized areas of law after completing the first-year core curriculum.

5. New York University School of Law

Students at New York University School of Law can earn an LL.M in Competition, Innovation, and Information Law. One international and three foundational courses are required before moving into specialty areas such as evidence, administrative, and corporate law.

Students that participate in the Technology Law and Policy Clinic gain real-world experience as they represent clients on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union. The university publishes the Journal of Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law and maintains an Intellectual Proper and Entertainment Law Society.

6. Santa Clara University School of Law

Students can take more than 40 IP law-related courses at the High Tech Law Institute. Areas include venture capital, startups, Internet law, broadband, and entertainment.

Santa Clara is among the largest American IP programs. The law school houses a think tank known as the Broadband Institute of California, sponsors student groups in biotechnology and intellectual property, and publishes two technology law journals. Through the school’s Entrepreneurs Law Clinic, students provide area entrepreneurs with legal services.

7. Yeshiva University Cardozo School of Law

Being in New York City is beneficial to Yeshiva University Cardozo School of Law. 30 courses in areas such as commercial, antitrust, arts, music, sports, patent, and Internet law are offered.

Instructors include Daniel Ravicher, who won a Supreme Court patenting case recently; and Susan Crawford, who Time Magazine named as one of the top technology minds.

8. American University Washington College of Law

More than 40 courses in property and information law are offered at American University Washington College of Law. This is another law school that benefits from its Washington, D.C. location.

The school conducts internships with such organizations as the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institute, and the Federal Trade Commission. Through the Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic, students manage real cases involving patents, trademarks, and copyrights.

Top 5 Careers for Engineers to Transition Into

Whether you start out in mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, engineering management, or in civil engineering, a career change may be in the cards for you. The employment landscape of today rewards engineering graduates with the courage and perseverance to forge a career path that applies old skills to new challenges and opportunities.

Career Transition Ideas for Engineers

The fundamental skills of an engineer such as strong numeracy, problem-solving, and logical thinking are desirable characteristics for:

  • Research and Development
  • Patent Agent or Attorneys
  • Business Leaders
  • Software Specialists/Product Management
  • Teachers

We’ll get into each of these career possibilities here …

1. Research and Development

There are some alternative careers already in the industry of your expertise. Large engineering employers often run programs that focus on research and development. The focus changes from generality to understanding technical and scientific research.

If you’d like to get into a career in research and development, you’ll want to develop expertise in a specific area such as chemistry or physics. By studying the most current research on a particular topic, identify the employer’s conception of value, and build routines around the observation.

The change in perspective requires flexibility. Gain the trust of those with whom you work by acknowledging your weaknesses and asking for help in being brought up to speed. Demonstrate a willingness to learn and put forth the effort.

2. Patent Agent or Attorney

The patent bar is open to engineers hoping to practice as a patent attorney or agent. Once a qualified engineer takes and passes the patent bar exam, he or she will become a registered patent agent (even without attending law school). Patent attorneys and agents write and prosecute applications for patents at universities, corporations, law firms, or practices of their own.

There are many free resources to help in the Bar Exam preparation on this site. The interested engineer can explore a career in patent law through free interviews with patent professionals, a career assessment, and online video courses.

3. Business Leader

One-third of the S&P 500 CEOs in 2014 had an undergraduate degree in engineering. A close look at business and engineering reveals that the two specializations require some overlapping skills.

Both business leaders and engineers want things to run efficiently. They look to innovative and creative solutions while remaining rooted in the realm of possibilities. The knowledge and skills obtained in the study of engineering transfer remarkably well to business careers.

These skills include:

  • Effective problem-solving, time management, and project planning
  • Attention to detail
  • Good communication and teamwork
  • Experience in data processing and numeracy
  • A high level of technical knowledge and computer skills

These skills are part of the reason there is a growing dominance of engineers in the business leaders of the world. Business leaders typically earn slightly more than engineers and often prefer the business sector working conditions.

4. Software Specialist/Product Management

Software industry hiring managers are looking for engineers for product management jobs. There are sometimes unrealistic expectations. It is best that engineers, transitioning to software product managers first act as the technical program manager, customer support in a startup, sales engineer, or project manager.

First, product manager jobs are usually a stepping stone to the ultimate career goal. Someone with the time and money benefits from earning an MBA from a business school. While studying, you can create a network of extraordinary individuals, get a view of the global business world, and get a different perspective on problems and develop communication skills.

An alternative would be signing up for immersive classes that last from six to 24 weeks. They cover topics that will aid in getting that dream job. Software engineers believe programming skills guarantee a product manager job. They emphasize their technical background on resumes and during interviews. The talent that wins the position shows interest in other industry areas and demonstrates a diverse knowledge.

5. Teaching

What first attracts many people to engineering is the application of science and the use of problem-solving skills. The knowledge of these processes can be used to train others and turn young scientists into engineers.

Teaching engineering related subjects allows a person to look at creative engineering aspects and help students develop problem-solving skills. The engineer can provide real-world examples from course study and time spent as an engineer.

Scientific and technical concepts are brought to life. Requirements include experience with children, an enthusiasm for the subject, and excellent communication. Other similar jobs put an engineering background to use as a higher education lecturer who specializes in a particular area.

Make Sure You Know What You Want

Each organization hires former engineers based on a set of factors pertinent to the new field. Engineers who succeed in the endeavor have skills in a specific area that makes them stand out from other candidates.

In addition to skills, you will want to make sure the new career offers many possible advantages in comparison to your old career. Advantages might include the following:

  • A higher salary
  • To be creative
  • To help others
  • To do something sociable
  • To work on cutting-edge projects
  • To build or make things
  • To travel

It’s important to know what motivates you before you take the next leap and make sure the profession includes at least most of what you want.

 

 

12 Costly Mistakes To Avoid After College

After graduation, many students experience some post-graduation consequences that are not much fun. The majority of 2016 college graduates found themselves approximately $37,000 in student loan debt and the average is growing. In addition, many college graduates have debt in other forms like; car loans and credit card debt. This is a list of common mistakes that can be very costly and should be avoided—or you could end up paying for it for years.

1. Deferring Student Loans

Temporarily stopping repayments for a student loan like the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) repayments may seem like a short-term solution. In reality, the longer a loan is deferred, the deeper in debt you become. The interest rate on some loans even increases.

2. Not Using A Grace Period

Taking advantage of a grace period is not the same as deferring payments. Lenders often grant a grace period for college graduates to begin repaying a loan. The grace period is typically six months. Do not ignore the payment that you will eventually be making. Instead, put the amount of the monthly payment into a savings account.

When loan payments begin, you will have an emergency fund in the bank and be in the habit of making the payment. The grace period gives you time to figure out a plan of attack for paying off loans. If making payments is going to be burdensome, you have time to explore other options. There are sometimes income-based repayment options available.

Failing to have a game plan for student loans is a mistake. If the debt is not handled correctly, it can severely impact your financial future. Determine what you owe and the interest rate on each loan. Extra payments on high-interest loans can save a lot of money. A loan payment made by automatic debit may qualify for a slight reduction in the interest rate that can save hundreds of dollars over the term of the loan.

3. Not Asking For Loan Forgiveness

Some student loans qualify for forgiveness. Student loan forgiveness is an opportunity to have loans entirely or partially forgiven. Loan forgiveness may be granted in exchange for:

  • Volunteering
  • Choosing a job in a specific location or field
  • Military service
  • Moving to a certain location

4. Paying Too Much Rent

Rent should be no more than 30 percent of your monthly income. Finding suitable housing can be a challenge because income and job opportunities seem stagnant while rent is continually increasing. This dilemma is the reason so many college graduates move back home with parents until they are more financially stable.

5. No Budget

Budgeting can be a daunting task. Start by tracking where you spend your money. Your expenses should include things like gas, groceries, and utilities. When you have a handle on expenses, budgeting and adjustments become easier.

Only about 30 percent of Americans actually budget. Budgeting can be difficult when there is little money to work with.

Landing a job can cause the temptation to indulge in things not feasible during college or spend money whenever you want, on whatever you want. But, purchasing extravagant items can start an endless spending cycle. Stick to the necessities. Save the money you would spend on wants rather than needs to use for a vacation, paying off student loans, or a down payment on a car.

Budgets help you stay on track financially. They can help you:

  • Pay down debt
  • Keep from making unnecessary purchases
  • Start growing a savings account

6. College Lifestyle

Keeping late hours is not only expensive but affects your ability to perform the next day. After college, the focus should be on jump-starting a career.

Travel is often an after college goal that can affect the money you have available. College graduates have to realize that adult decisions have to be made. If bitten by the travel bug, do not go deeper into debt. Substitute saving money by going on a road trip for buying a pricey airplane ticket.

7. Not Saving Or Contributing To A Retirement Fund

Put something in savings every month. Your employer can make an automatic deposit from your paycheck if disciplining yourself to do so is difficult. If your employer has a 401(k) plan, take advantage of it. Many employers who offer a 401(k) plan match a portion of the contribution. That is free money.

8. Limits Placed On Job Searches

Refusing to accept or apply for a job that does not fit your passion or degree is a mistake. Limiting a job search also limits growth and income opportunity. There is definitely a correlation between the length of time spent waiting for a dream job and a dwindling bank account.

9. Meeting 100% of the Job Description

One of the most significant job search challenges is the job description. It’s likely that some listed qualifications can be taken with a grain of salt. The description is a wish list for hiring managers looking for the ideal candidate. Don’t apply for a job that is entirely out of your league, but meeting all the criteria is not necessary when applying for a job.

10. Poor Resume

Ninety-percent of large companies use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) software to scan resumes for keywords included in a job description. Resumes without keyword matches are automatically and immediately tossed from the pool of applicants. That means no one in charge of hiring sees them.

Make sure your resume is tailored to the job for which you are applying. Identify the keywords and phrases in the job description and include them in your resume.

11. Focus On Lack Of Experience

Hiring managers are aware that an applicant is a recent graduate. If you reach the interview stage, questions about your lack of experience can be expected. Do not apologize. It is a waste of time and makes you appear weak.

Go into an interview ready to let a potential employer know what you have to offer. Spend time before the meeting thinking about polished, high-energy, and inquisitive responses to questions about your lack of experience. Being inquisitive makes you stand out from other candidates.

Show the interviewer that you came because you are curious and want to learn. Being able to engage and participate in a conversation is likely what the hiring manager is looking for. Don’t discount work done in school, as an intern, or as a volunteer. You may have done some work in a solo or team setting that is related. Treat that assignment as relevant work experience.

12. Not Having Health Insurance

Health insurance is one of those things that college graduates are forced to think about and have to deal with. If an employer does not offer health insurance, you have to be covered under your parent’s’ policy or enroll in a plan of your own.

The Affordable Care Act mandates insurance companies to extend the coverage of adult children until they are 26 years old. It is wise for parents to contact their insurance provider to ensure you are covered. The average cost of a hospital stay is a little over $33,000. The number one reason people in America file bankruptcy is due to medical debt.

It is an unexpected expense that can be financially devastating. Saving what you can, where you can, and being willing to start at the bottom of the food chain are the things that will pay off in the long run. Be your own best advocate. Make wise choices that will impact your future and you’ll be assured a brighter future.

Feeling Scared for Your First Patent Practitioner Job Interview? If So, Review These Tips

Why do job candidates get nervous during an interview? Dr. Tamar Chansky, the author of Freeing Yourself from Anxiety, believes the brain cannot distinguish between high stake situations such as a job interview and being under the threat of attack.

The body gears up to fight or run for your life. Those uncomfortable and inconvenient reactions make sense if you are indeed being threatened with assault. For a job interview with your potential employer, especially an in-person interview, you need to be collected, cool, and calm.

Here are some tips to calm your nerves. Getting a job you really want impacts your general happiness and self-worth. The battle that goes on in the mind is the result of landing the job or not.

Getting the job means having the ability to pay bills, save money, get health insurance and be involved in an activity that interests you. Not getting the job weakens your financial position and lowers your self-worth.

Though it is fine to show your strengths and weaknesses, nervousness is the result of internal conflict. Lack of preparation for an in-person interview with your potential employer is a common culprit that also makes interviewees nervous. In most cases, the more time spent in preparation, the more confident you will be during a job interview.

Specific Preparation Activities

Those who do their research can articulate the qualifications and skills they have that align with the position. For instance, a patent agent or patent attorney should have an interest in law, registration as a patent practitioner, and a degree in an engineering or science subject — otherwise receiving a job offer is unlikely.

Let the interviewer know about the degrees you hold, your registry status, and any other qualifications you possess. Match career accomplishments with what the company is seeking. Do not embellish facts on a resume. The more truthful the information is, the easier it is to discuss past experiences.

Writing patent drafts entails writing invention descriptions in precise legal terms. This is one of the main duties of a patent attorney or patent agent. Other duties include:

  • Preparing responses to patent examiner reports.
  • Ensuring that deadlines for applications and renewals are met.
  • Conducting proceeding litigations.
  • Keeping up to date with intellectual property legal developments.

Make sure to showcase any experience in those areas. Highlight any writing, speaking, and research skills that you possess. See these as opportunities to sell yourself.

The keys to an effective interview are:

  • Confidence projection
  • Staying positive
  • Sharing examples of workplace qualifications and skills

Speak concisely and clearly about the assets you can offer an employer. Brush up on communication skills. Advanced preparation allows you to showcase the skills that tell the interviewer you are an ideal candidate for the position.

Do Your Research

A frequent question that candidates are asked is what they know about the company. When answering questions, interject what you know about the organization. The ‘About Us’ section of a company’s website is a good place to start. The company’s Facebook and LinkedIn pages are also resources worth reading before you go to your interview.

Be prepared to use the interviewer’s name while in the interview. If you are uncertain, make a call before the meeting and inquire who will conduct the questioning. Making a personal connection and building rapport increase the chances of getting the job.

Do Not Put Off Getting Ready until the Last Minute

Have a suitable outfit for an interview chosen, cleaned, and pressed to eliminate worry about what to wear, even if given a short notice to interview. The outfit should be appropriate for a law firm, which means it should be professional, neat, and tidy.

Prepare for an interview the night before. Find a pen and notepad to take along and print extra resume copies for a portfolio. Arrive ten to fifteen minutes early for the interview. If necessary, drive to the interview location in advance so you know exactly where the meeting will be held and how long it will take to get there.

Running late suggests that you have poor time management skills. It is a sign of disrespect to the interviewer, the position, and the firm so be sure you are not late. Visit the restroom, calm your nerves, and check your attire in those few minutes before the interview.

Presenting Yourself

Be well-rested and alert in preparation for the interview. Missing questions or getting distracted have an adverse effect on the interview process. Make an engaged effort to pay attention if you feel your focus drifting.

Body language often says more than the spoken word. Being properly prepared allows confidence to exude. Lean forward when addressing the interviewer. Maintain eye contact. Listen to the entire question before you answer.

Take a few seconds to regroup before responding. Use what you learned in researching the company to answer questions. Keep answers focused, to-the-point, and succinct. Point out that you are aware of some aspects of the firm and how your qualifications are an asset that matches the company’s mission.

Be familiar with the information on your resume.  Know when you worked for each employer on the list. Also, have graduation dates and contact information memorized or readily available. Sometimes, interviewees are asked to fill out an application even though they submitted a resume.

Always write a thank-you as a follow-up to the interview. Reiterate your interest in the job. Include any details that may not have been presented in the interview. If the interview was conducted by more than one person, send each individual a thank-you message. Send thank you notes within 24 hours of the meeting. Emails are acceptable thank-you note formats.

Common Interview Mistakes

Do not take soda or coffee to the interview. It is unprofessional and distracting from the task at hand which is to make a good impression. Silence your cell phone. Texting during an interview is disruptive and rude. Do not make or answer calls during an interview.

The interviewer does not need to know your whole life story. Your children, spouse, or personal life are topics not to be discussed in an interview. When discussing past employment, do not put former bosses down. Prospective employers tend to side with the previous or current employer.

It’s a lot to take in, but it’s important to do your research and spend time preparing for the interview. Remember how to appropriately present yourself, act with the polite social skills, and the chances of landing the position are in your favor.

 

 

5 Patent Law Associations You Should Consider Joining

Joining a patent law association allows members to stay at the forefront of intellectual property law. The members are made up of a diverse group of lawyers and other professionals in corporate and private practice, the academic community, law school, and government services.

There are individuals from institutions, companies, and law firms who are directly and indirectly involved in unfair competition law, trade secret, copyright law, and other law fields that impact intellectual law.

The associations serve their members, work to improve the legal profession, eliminate bias, enhance diversity, and advance the rule of law in the U.S. and globally. Associations support the legal profession by providing practical resources that improve the administration of justice, law school accreditation, and ethical codes.

American Intellectual Property Law Association

People join AIPLA to stay abreast of intellectual property policies, laws, and standards developments. The association helps in networking with colleagues and career advancement. AIPLA offers several categories of membership for IP practitioners.

Solo practitioners are included. The regular membership comprises bar members in good standing of a court of record of the United States, Territory or State, District of Columbia, or the United States Patent and Trademark Office for at least five years.

They must be eligible to hold office and vote. Small firm and solo practitioners receive a reduced membership fee. Those with less than five years of good standing referred to as junior members; associates; academic; and life categories have reduced rates.

The annual dues for each category (from 2018) are as follows (note that these may change, consult the official AIPLA site for further details):

Regular $395
Solo $375
Junior $189
Associate $90
Government $90
Academic No Fee
Life No Fee

The National Association of Patent Practitioners

NAPP, a nonprofit organization, is dedicated to its support of patent practitioners and others who work in the field of patent law in matters that relate to patent prosecution and practice. The mission is to provide a collective voice, benefits, collegial exchange, education, and networking in the IP community concerning patent law and prosecution.

NAPP has three membership categories. The practitioner membership is for patent attorneys and patent agents in good standing and registered before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Reduced annual fees are offered to students and associates.

The Annual NAPP Dues (from 2018; consult the official NAPP site for updated dues):

Practitioner $200
Student $50
Associate $175

International Intellectual Property Law Association

IIPA provides a platform for bringing everyone who deals with IP and its global challenges together. Offline and online international events have organized that focus on IP community members cooperation and IP education.

The organization helps international institutions, policymakers, and individuals understand the IP industry cooperative model. It helps to bridge the IP fraternity and unify the global IP laws. IIPLA fosters uniform research and development opportunities through worldwide cooperation and awareness.

The association provides members with incredibly enduring contracts, excellent financial opportunities, exciting career options, best IP practice, and the latest IP trends. The organization offers memberships that can be paid annually or monthly. Regular membership is extended to global lawyers/attorneys and agents registered to practice before the worldwide Patent and Trademark Office or registered in a worldwide bar.

Membership Fees (as of 2018; consult the official IIPA site for an updated fee schedule):

Membership Annually Monthly
Regular $600 $60
IP Affiliate $450 $45
Government $99
PTO (full-time patent examiner or other professional national patent and trademark office employee $99
Judicial $75
Student $25
Group (up to 10) $2900
Group (up to 20) $4900
Group (up to 100) $9900

The American Bar Association Section of Intellectual Property Law 

Belonging to the ABA-IPL entitles members to a free eBook, CAREERS IN IP LAW and a magazine subscription to Landslide. Members have the opportunity to substantive committees and are involved at the level of their choice.

Action groups, open to immediate involvement include:

  • Women in IP Law (WIP)
  • Law Students (LSAG)
  • International (IAG)
  • Diversity (DAG)
  • Young Lawyer (YLAG)

Other benefits include:

  • Legislative updates
  • Continuing legal education opportunities
  • Intellectual property law conference
  • Discounts on books of IP topics and solutions
  • eNews about the latest activities, initiatives, and projects

Membership dues are tiered according to the bar admission date. To join the ABA-IPL, the person must be a member of the American Bar Association. The dues for regular and special membership are free for those admitted to the bar in 2017 or 2018.

Special dues are available for legal/public service or government lawyers, judges, and private practice solo lawyers. There is an additional fee for the Intellectual Property Section.

Association of Intellectual Property Firms

AIPF is an international group of independent specialty firms devoted to the practice of copyright, trademark, and patent law. The association is dedicated to needs unique to the IP boutique.

Clients are better served because of the forum of international collaboration and resources the organization provides. Member firms and attorneys receive help in improving all levels of business management skills and understanding the business and needs of their clients.

Members develop relationships with the worldwide legal academic community to enhance recruiting initiatives and demonstrate legal and technical capabilities. They engage with leaders from industries and businesses around the world.

To be eligible for membership 50 percent of the attorneys at a firm must be registered to practice before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office or the home country Patent and Trademark Office. The majority of the firm’s business must be devoted to the practice of Intellectual Property Law. Annual dues are based on the number of participating attorneys in the firm.

The following is the fee schedule (please consult the official AIPF site for updated fees):

Number  of Attorneys Dues
Solo – Three $300
Four – Seven $600
Eight – 15 $1500
16–25 $2500
26–35 $3500
36–50 $3500
51–100 $5000
100+ $6000

Patent law associations are voluntary bar associations. The purpose of these organizations is to maintain high standards of ethics and aid in improving laws about intellectual property. Membership dues vary from association to association. With a variety of options, finding a patent association that fits your budget is feasible.

 

Quick Guide to Law School Financial Aid

A legal education is both an investment in a student’s future and a financial investment. Like all investments, before you apply for any student aid, considering the pros and cons of a massive expenditure of money, time, and effort is essential. A realistic assessment of the reasons to pursue a legal education and how to pay for it is crucial.

The best source of legal education financial aid information is the website or financial aid office of a LSAC-member law school. LASC.org has several good financial aid information sources and links to numerous law schools and need-based financial aid. The cost of law school (which is typically 3 years) can exceed $150,000.

The yearly tuition ranges from several thousand dollars to more than $50,000. The total cost of law school attendance includes transportation, housing, food, books, and personal expenses. Law schools establish a ‘Cost of Attendance’ that provides for allowances for living expenses and fixed costs of fees and tuition.

That Cost of Attendance is the maximum financial aid available from any source. Education loans are the primary—but not the exclusive—source of financial assistance for the majority of law school students.

Student Loans

Loans are repaid with future income. The more money that is borrowed, the longer the debt impacts life after graduation. Federal student loans offer the most flexible payment options. Those options include Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plans.

IDR plans offer monthly payments that are less than ten percent of the monthly household

Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). There are more payment relief opportunities available from federal loans than those offered by institutional or private source loans.

Institutional and private loan sources are typically used by students ineligible for federal student loans. The school’s financial aid staff determines the types and amount of loan funding a student is eligible to receive based on the school’s cost of attendance, institutional policies, and federal regulations.

Guidelines for borrowing law school loans include:

  • Borrowing the minimum needed.
  • Seeking federal loans first.
  • Avoiding loans from private sources unless ineligible for federal student loans.

Other Sources Of Funding

There are limited fellowships, grants, and scholarships available. Some students in their second and third year of law school are offered part-time Federal Work-Study Program employment. There is an ABA-mandate that limits the number of hours that full-time law students can work. First-year students are expected to concentrate fully on schoolwork.

Rules and regulations are continually changing and law school policies vary. The student must stay current about financial aid. The research is similar to that done when deciding to which law school to apply. All professional and graduate school students are thought to be financially independent of parents for determining federal aid eligibility.

Submitting parental information is not a requirement. Law schools may require financial information of parents for institutional scholarships and grants. Students need to be aware of specific procedures and policies regarding independent status for institutional funds allocations. The guidelines vary from school to school. Students should investigate the guidelines for all schools they have an interest in attending.

Negotiating Law School Financial Aid

Loan forgiveness programs are becoming more and more popular. Law schools ask students to take out loans that will finance most of the legal education. After graduation, schools look at what a student is earning. The schools repay all or part of tuition debt for students earning below a certain threshold. What that means is, those who are looking for significant need-based financial aid for law school will likely be unsuccessful.

Those individuals should focus on merit-based awards to earn financial grants used to defray the high cost of legal education. Anyone who enters law school with financial need and does not secure a merit-based award will be strapped with loans. Institutions facilitate federal loans such as Perkins and Stafford loans. If a student’s financial need exceeds the federal limit, students take out private loans from either a lender of choice or the school’s preferred lender.

This route means after graduating law school; a student has significant debt. Those taking a public sector or public interest job traditionally earn a low salary. In that situation, law schools will probably repay at least part of the loans for the next ten to 15 years. That repayment is subject to the law school forgiveness program details and the continued financial need for that ten- or 15-year period.

Those hired by top law firms, with a starting salary of $160,000, will not receive help in repaying loans, even if the student was in significant financial need when entering law school. Planning is critically important. Students need to know what funds are available before and after graduation.

Merit-Based Aid

Securing need-based aid early in law school is becoming less and less of a viable option. Paying back loans can be minimized by focusing on merit-based aid therefore, you should apply to schools with a reputation for offering significant merit-based assistance.

The negotiating process is delicate. The student must be careful in communicating with law schools about merit-based offers. The right approach can save five and six-figure amounts in interest and tuition. Getting a $10,000 grant or $10,000 to $30,000 off tuition makes a monumental difference in the cost of law school, even over a repayment period of ten or 15 years. It’s well worth spending the time to find grants like these and save later on.